Author Archives: rattlesnakecreekwatershedgroup

We’re Back!

The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group is reinvigorating itself after being “off line” for some time. We have a new board that is committed to a role in support of the Rattlesnake Creek watershed and surrounding community. Stay tuned for more updates as we redesign our website, and restablish ourselves as a communication link for all things creek and watershed-related.

Sign up for our mailing list by emailing us at, or through the mailing list link on this website.

Join the RCWG to Explore Your Backyard Creek July 9th 6-7 pm


The RCWG is hosting an ‘Explore Your Backyard Creek’ event on Monday, July 9, 2012 from 6:00-7:00pm in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. Participants should meet at the end of Duncan Drive next to the walking trail at 6:00pm.

Join natural resource experts to explore one of Missoula’s most beloved creeks, and learn more about native fish and wildlife species and the historical land use of Rattlesnake Creek.  Plus, participants can join in ongoing efforts to protect clean water and wildlife habitat in the region.  The event will include informal stations that will explore these topics and provide more information on how community members can get involved in stewardship efforts.

This event is free, family friendly and open to the public. Free snacks and refreshments will be provided. For more information about this event please call 406.524.0539. Hope to see you there!

Map to Explore Your Backyard Creek

View Map

Something to do with noxious weeds

Bouquet of noxious weed flowers

Bouquet of flowering noxious weeds, harvested in early June along the open space trail below the Mount Jumbo saddle trailhead. Photograph by Eric Edlund.

It’s getting to be that time of year, and I’ll bet you haven’t bought a Father’s Day present yet!  How about a bouquet of flowers?  “No way!” you’re saying, “that sounds a little too ‘girly’ for my Dad”.  Well alright then, how about giving him a bouquet of noxious weeds?

Noxious weeds have many advantages over traditional flowers.  They’re easy to find, free, and if you pick ’em, you’re helping our natural environment!  (That last one is especially true if you pull them out by the roots.  Read on….)

At this time of year, on public lands all around the Rattlesnake Valley, there are some very pretty flowers that also just happen to be classified as noxious weeds.  The four species shown in this bouquet (houndstongue, Dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, and hoary cress or whitetop) were all gathered in the open space below the Mount Jumbo Saddle trailhead.

Hand-pulling can be a useful tool for weed control, and when the ground is wet it’s not that hard to get most or even all of the root.  It’s probably best to wear gloves, because some of these plants contain skin-irritating chemicals.

Dalmatian Toadflax is a long-distance colonist.  If you find a small patch of toadflax, you can prevent it from spreading by hand-pulling all the plants.  (For this and any of the weeds listed here, don’t feel bad if you don’t get the entire root–the sad truth is that for most weed species it will take several years to eradicate a patch).

Leafy spurge and whitetop (a.k.a. hoary cress) are harder to contain with hand-pulling–they’re really abundant. You’ll almost never get the entire root of a spurge, and in fact, breaking the plant away is likely to stimulate vegetative root growth and help spread the plant.  Even young plants have breakable nodes on their roots that will probably stay behind when you pull the root.  Still, like toadflax, if I find one or a few small plants far from any heavily-infested area, and the ground is wet, I’ll go ahead and pull them.

Houndstongue, on the other hand, is potentially-easy to control.  It’s a biennial with one main taproot.  It’s worth pulling, especially when the ground is wet.  Any one plant typically lives only two (maybe three) years–so even if you don’t get the root, if you remove the flowers, the plant is living on borrowed time.  But watch out–houndstongues will often sprout a second or third batch of flowers in a single season, and if you don’t get their root, they’ll be back to try again for at least one more year.  Watch out for last year’s dead plants too–they may be covered with sticky seeds that are best removed from your pets and clothing using a fine-toothed comb.

Fuzzytongue Penstemon and bumblebee

Bumblebee visiting Fuzzy-tongued Penstemon (Penstemon eriantherus), a native wildflower of western Montana. Photograph June 2012 by Eric Edlund.

These weeds are pretty distinctive, so you don’t need to worry too much about taking out innocent native bystanders.  But if you have any doubts, check some online resources for identification guides.  Missoula County’s weed identification page is a good place to start.  Houndstongue looks a little bit like our native bluebells and penstemons (see image at right–that’s a native plant!); spurge and toadflax plants look a little bit like a weedy native species called gromwell or stoneseed.  I don’t think you could confuse whitetop with any desirable native plant, but while you’re checking it out, keep an eye out for yarrow growing alongside the trails.  It has small white flowers and fuzzy basal leaves (these leaves are nothing like whitetop leaves).  Yarrow is a widely used herb in traditional medicines.

Enjoy Missoula’s open space, and thanks for helping to take care of the Rattlesnake Watershed.  If you enjoyed this post, check us out on Facebook.  The RCWG works on a variety of watershed protection issues, including water quality, invasive species, black bears and fruit trees.

Join Us For the Last Rattlesnake Stewardship Workshop–May 22nd

Rattlesnake Creek Community Stewardship Program
Spring 2012 Workshop Series
WORKSHOP #3: “INVADERS IN OUR BACKYARD—A Case for Ongoing Stewardship”

WHEN: TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012; 6:00pm–8:00pm
WHERE: Greenough Park Pavilion, 1629 Monroe St, Missoula

Participants will be able to rotate through 7 “stations” in and around the Greenough Park Pavilion and interact with 10 natural resource experts as they discuss stewardship issues in the Rattlesnake watershed.

Participants will consider people’s role in the watershed; non-native trout populations and competition for resources; invasive aquatic and terrestrial plants; wildlife (especially bear) habitats; riparian restoration; Greenough history; and more! We will learn the threats posed by invasives and the things we can do to protect our wonderful watershed.

Fun, interesting, enlightening–and games for kids! COME JOIN US!
All workshops are free, family friendly, and offer refreshments.

–KITTY GALLOWAY of Watershed Education Network will focus on people’s
role in the watershed
–CHRISTINE MORRIS of the Montana Natural History Center will focus on bark beetles
–JAMIE JONKEL of Montana FWP and ERIN EDGE of Defenders of Wildlife
will focus on wildlife (especially bears), habitats, and people
–ROB CLARK of Montana FWP will focus on non-native wild trout, resource competition, and future population projections
–LINDSEY BONA and STEFFANY ROGGE-KINDSETH of Missoula County Weed District will focus on identifying and monitoring invasive aquatic and terrestrial plant species
–JOHN PIERCE will focus on native plant identification and some history of the watershed
–MARK VANDER MEER and CHRISTINE BRISSETTE of Watershed Consulting will focus how invasive plants degrade the riparian ecosystem, where native vegetation is missing, and how it can be restored along Rattlesnake Creek

The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group

The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group is an open member, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving Rattlesnake Creek and its environs.  This amazing creek begins in Wilderness before finally coursing through one of most urbanized stream settings in Montana.  This incredible stream supports bull-trout, osprey, bears, deer, and countless Missoulians through its clear, cold water and sinuous bottom lands.  The creek also serves as the back-up water supply for Missoula as well.  The RCWG hopes to be a resource for the creek and the people, plants, and animals that live in or near it.  Please browse the website for more information on our programs, our initiatives, and our group.  Thanks for your interest!